Abstract: Crude Oil Sampling and Analysis Final Report - August 10, 2015

The July 6, 2013 Lac-Mégantic derailment and other incidents in Canada and the United States have raised many questions about the safe transport of crude oil by rail. They also put a spotlight on the need to further investigate crude oil properties and behaviour.

This report describes the testing the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Directorate has done to assess the composition and properties of crude oils transported by road and rail in Canada. We:

  • Verified the applicability of the current classification requirements described in the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (TDGR) Part 2, for Class 3, Flammable liquids; and Class 2, Gases.
  • Focussed on assessing other hazards that crude oil may pose during transport.

Study Methods

68 samples of crude oil were collected and analysed. The crude oil was destined for transport by rail or road in Canada and represents a wide range of crude oils from condensates to bitumen, under controlled conditions. We also subjected the samples to a variety of tests including but not limited to:

  • Flash point determination
  • Initial Boiling Point determination (IBP)
  • Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP)
  • True Vapor Pressure (TVP)
  • Compositional analysis and Gas Oil Ratio by gas chromatography (GC)
  • Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) analysis in the vapor phase and flammable gas testing

Research Results

  • The GC method found IBPs that put 56 out of the 68 samples in Packing Group I, the highest hazard group for Class 3 Flammable Liquids.
  • The ASTM D86 method, a commonly used standard for IBP testing of flammable liquids, found IBPs consistently higher than the GC tests.
  • The Report recommends using the method that combines GC data from two ASTM standards (D8003/ D7169) as a more accurate method for determining IBP of crude oil containing light ends (methane, ethane, propane and butane).
  • Most TVP values were above atmospheric pressure (101 kPa) at 50 oC.
  • TVP values were higher than the RVP values for the crude oil samples tested by both methods.
  • Based on compositional analysis, one crude oil sample contained enough amounts of light ends to result in a TVP above 300 kPa at 50 oC, which meets the TDGR's definition of a gas.
  • Vapour phase measurements of H2S ranged from 0-65000 ppm, with 42 of the 68 crude oil samples having values below 1000 ppm.

We performed this testing with Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures (AITF), an Alberta provincial research corporation.

Learn More

To obtain a copy of the report, please contact the Safety Research and Analysis Branch, Transportation of Dangerous Goods Directorate, Transport Canada at TDG-RD-TMD@tc.gc.ca.

UPDATE: Report Annex: Crude Oil Dataset

To support the published report, the crude oil data collected during this project is now available upon demand.

The data set is presented in Microsoft Excel and contains the following information on the samples:

  • Region of origin;
  • Sample type (e.g., heavy oil, condensate, etc.);
  • Sampling method (atmospheric or pressurized);
  • Inbound and outbound mode of transportation (rail, pipeline, truck);
  • Hydrogen sulphide (H2S) concentration in the vapor phase (ppm);
  • Flash point (°C);
  • Water and sediment content (%);
  • Density (kg/m3);
  • Initial Boiling Point (IBP) (°C);
  • Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) (kPa);
  • True Vapor Pressure (TVP) (kPa);
  • Gas Oil Ratio (m3/m3);
  • Simulated distillation profile; and
  • Compositional analysis (%).

Note:  The data set does not name the companies that own or operate the facilities at which we took samples or the exact geographic point of sampling.

To obtain a copy of the data, please contact the Safety Research and Analysis Branch, Transportation of Dangerous Goods Directorate, Transport Canada at TDG-RD-TMD@tc.gc.ca.

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